TCWT Blog Chain – April

What is your ultimate goal as a writer?

I think every writer is going to have a similar first thought: I want to be published, of course. Shouldn’t that be obvious? And it is obvious, but I started to think a bit more about it. Why do I write? WHY? So I’ve come up with about four things that I want to achieve as a writer.

1)      For people to read my stories. This is also a goal of many writers, and it’s something that I’m already experiencing today. Because of amazing critique partners, writer friends and real life friends, I’ve already had people read my stories.

2)      To write in more than one genre. At the moment I write a great deal of contemporary, but I’ve also dabbled in fantasy. I like writing for both MG and YA, and I’d love to publish in both areas. Everything  I write somehow ends up being comedy, and comedy in fantasy is something that appeals to me a great deal.

3)      To get a job as some sort of writer. I don’t mind if it’s a novelist, or an editor, or a literary agent, or a journalist – I would just love to be able to write as a profession…and be able to sustain myself on that.

4)      My ultimate goal is to keep writing, just because I have to. I think that if I never get published, I will still write. It’s what calms me and excites me at the same time. I like creating characters and watching them suffer (oops, that’s my inner sadist coming out). I like being surprised by my story. I like watching my characters grow.

I guess that sometimes I get caught up in imagining the future. As John Green’s wife Sarah said, “imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia.” At the risk of sounding incredibly corny, I think it’s enough just to plod along at my desk, typing things that may never make it into a book. It’s enough just to write and entertain myself…for now, at least. That may change.

As a teenager, I have the tremendous power of being able to experiment. If I try to write a dystopian MG comedy and fall flat on my face (not that I would ever attempt to write something like that), it won’t matter, because my mum pays the bills. So I can experiment in different genres, styles and forms, and not feel pressured to make something good.

To all the teen writers out there: keep writing. And don’t ever stop.

Others participating in the TCWT blog chain:

5th – http://miriamjoywrites.wordpress.com/

6th – http://www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.com/

7th – http://www.paulinaczarnecki.wordpress.com/

8th – http://insatiablebeforedeath.wordpress.com/

9th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

10th – http://avonsbabbles.wordpress.com/

11th – https://theloonyteenwriter.wordpress.com/

12th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/

13th – http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com/

14th – http://creatingtherenaissance.wordpress.com/

15th – http://charactercentral.wordpress.com/

16th – http://realityisimaginary.blogspot.com/

17th – http://www.novelexemplar.wordpress.com/

18th – http://charlieeatmybook.blogspot.co.uk/

19th – http://zarahoffman.tumblr.com/

20th – http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

21st – http://theangelicauburn.wordpress.com/

22nd – http://eatwritedie.blogspot.com/

23rd – http://writerbewildered.blogspot.com/

24th – http://veewhoa.wordpress.com/

25th – http://www.alwaysweavingwords.blogspot.com/

26th – http://anqiyu.wordpress.com/

27th – http://bloodoverithaca.wordpress.com/ 

28th – http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com/

29th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain)

 

The Uselessness of Talent

You might be reading this post because you’re intrigued, or because you want to hear what I have to say. But I bet a lot of people are reading this because they think “Talent? Useless? Yeah, RIGHT!” Hear me out.

Maybe talent is what gets people writing in the first place. People heap praise on them, saying that they’re talented writers, they have so much to offer, they’re gifted, they were born with an ability and shouldn’t waste it. Fair enough. But then…what happens next? If that hypothetical person doesn’t develop that talent, are they still talented writers?

Of course not. To be truly good at something, you need passion. If you have passion, other things will soon follow. Passion leads to determination, which leads to drive, which leads to staring zombie-like at a laptop screen at 3am when you have maths homework due the next day. Without passion, talent is nothing. Without practice, passion is nothing. Talent is useless.

I know some people that think only an elite group can truly write, that it’s an innate skill only available to some people. The truth is that with enough practice, and enough perseverance, anyone can write. They may not go on to write the next Harry Potter or Twilight, because those trends are incredibly complex and hard to follow, but they will reach a point where their writing is good.

I’d like to say my writing is good, but I don’t think it is yet. I think my writing is okay, and that’s okay. I’ve written three novels – one a complete waste of time, one that was my first “proper” novel, and one that was written as part of NaNoWriMo novel last year. I think that if I keep revising my NaNo novel, my writing might become good.

Because talent is useless. Perseverance, drive, passion and staring zombie-like at computer screens is the real way to success.

The Dreaded Info-Dump

So a few months back, I won a little gem of a book called SAVE THE CAT. Technically it’s a screenwriting book, but it’s the most helpful book on writing I’ve ever read. And it had some great info on info-dumps.

If you don’t know what an info-dump, here’s a quick definition. It’s when something has to be explained to the reader – whether it’s a whole new world your MC is entering, or how someone figured out who murdered someone else. Anything that has to be explained. And normally when this happens, it creates an “info-dump” – too much information that reads very poorly.

In SAVE THE CAT, Blake Snyder (the author) gives a solution called The Pope in the Pool, which came from a movie. Basically, the solution is to have something funny or dramatic happening while the information is being given to the reader. In my NaNoWriMo novel, the information is given while a Scottish guy plays the bagpipes in the middle of my MC’s train compartment. The point is to give something else for the readers to enjoy, while they’re absorbing the information.

Info-dumps are one of the hardest things in writing to pull off. Most of the time I incorporate them into dialogue, or have action happening at the same time. And info-dumps in the first page of your novel are a HUGE no-no. Introducing your MC to a new world is full of potential info-dumps, and you should avoid giving all the information at once.

Play around with different ideas, and I would recommend trying the Pope in the Pool method. Whether you have an actual Pope in the pool, a Scottish guy playing bagpipes, or something very dramatic, use some action in the middle of information-giving. Watch Sherlock to see how they do it. Read books.

It gets easier each time.

Forgiving Eve

So last week I entered the post-NaNoWriMo stage, the one where I started running around like a headless chicken, not knowing what to do with my life. It was literally, “I WROTE A NOVEL, NOW WHAT?” Well, of course I knew what – I had to put it aside, and then tear it apart.

But I still felt at sea.

So I started brainstorming some more novels. Here they are:

1) One singer and one mute girl, who are twins…I didn’t get further than that

2) The Endless Landscape, a book title…that was all I got

3) A pregnant butt-kicking fairy who hated the colour pink (I quite like this idea but at the moment I haven’t developed it any further)

And now there’s Forgiving Eve, my new WIP. Let me introduce it:

David meets Eve on the Apple Bridge, and both of them are about to commit suicide. What a way to meet someone. But when Eve convinces him not to jump, it begins a whirlwind romance, and David finds himself capable of happiness. After all, he finds nothing sexier than a girl who can quote chunks of Shakespeare without blinking.

But as their secrets start unravelling, the knowledge of betrayal and suffering seep into their lives. David and Eve’s strict Christian parents keep them apart, sure that knowledge is the root of all suffering. This might be the end to their library romance. Can they forgive each other, or will they continue to be bound by Eve’s first mistake?

This is just a working blurb for now, but I hope you like it. And the title. Do you guys like the title?

Cutting a Character from your Novel

So I’ve recently begun rewriting my first novel, HOPING FOR RAIN. Since I’ve finished my NaNo novel in its entirety, I put that aside for a month or so to work on this. And I’m finding a few things about cutting characters. One, that I hate to do it. Two, that it’s often necessary.

And let me tell you something, writers of the world: most writers cut characters. Even JK Rowling cut characters from her novels. The truth is that sometimes, even if they’re terrific characters, they don’t serve any purpose.

I’m cutting at least one character from HOPING FOR RAIN – her boyfriend, a boy called David. I decided that since her main aim wasn’t to find love (it’s to find happiness) and there were no major plot points circling around him, he needed to be cut.

I didn’t know if it was the right decision at first. Cutting a character? What is this insanity? But as I began to write out the scene summaries of my second draft, I realised I had been right: he was superfluous. Maybe I’d thought that he gave some extra interest to the story; maybe I’d thought that you had to have a love interest. Either way, I was wrong. I cut him.

I didn’t like cutting him. He was a funny character, very charismatic. But if it would enhance my writing, so be it. And that freed me a lot. The thing is, characters are often cut after first drafts – and characters are often added as well.

When you’re feeling iffy about cutting a character, think about what’s best for your story. And then take the plunge.

NaNoWriMo Day Nine And SO CLOSE

So I’m on more than 48k, but I’m not going to win tonight.

I’ve written almost 8k today, and I know my limits. I’d like to really finish tonight, but I’m going to save that win for tomorrow. I think I’ll be in more of a position to enjoy it then.

Plus I have to write this post 🙂

Today, I have something more to add. And that thing to add is this: NaNoWriMo is only the start. 50,000 words is not a novel, unless you’re writing books for younger readers. For YA or adult novels (probably even MG) it’s only the start.

Which is why I’m going to use the rest of November to continue with my novel. And then I’m going to use the months after that to edit and rewrite, because NaNoWriMo has done its job: it’s started me on a journey I’m not going to finish anytime soon.

And I think that’s a very valuable thing. Many times we get attacked by Shiny New Idea Syndrome, and just HAVE to abandon a current WIP to be enticed by the Shiny New Idea. NaNoWriMo forces you to stick with an idea, to believe in it. It forces you to give yourself a change.

That, more than all the fancy prizes and bragging rights, is the real prize.

NaNoWriMo: Day The Eighth

Image

 

The above is so true. I made the mistake of reading back some of my earlier chapters and…yikes. December is going to be EmNoEdMo…Emily Novel Editing Month. Isn’t that clever of me?

But I don’t allow myself to think about editing yet. I found some fantastic typos, including “We had a choice of orange and silver tinsel, so I chose green.” I think that wins the contest. I have so much self-control that I didn’t even correct those mistakes – I know I’m going to be cutting a lot of my novel anyway, so why should I change it now?

Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

 

Dad got it into his head that we would make gingerbread, something neither he nor I had ever attempted before.

                ‘You’re in charge,’ said Dad.

                ‘What? I don’t know how to make gingerbread!’

                ‘I don’t care. I’m the father. You’re in charge.’

                ‘Isn’t that a bit – ’

                ‘Ironic? Yes. Now do as I say and be in charge.’

                The first problem came when we had to chill the dough, mostly because we forgot to. Five minutes and several sticky fingers later, we consulted the recipe again.

                ‘Oh,’ said Dad.

                ‘Oh.’

                ‘You’re supposed to be in charge!’ said Dad, whacking me lightly with the rolling pin. ‘Not acceptable, chef.’

                ‘You were the one reading me the recipe,’ I said, washing my hands. ‘It’s not the chef’s fault that the assistant is incompetent.’

                Eventually we got our gingerbread into the oven.

                ‘They look amazing,’ said Dad, more proud than he should have been.

                ‘No they don’t,’ I said. ‘They look like misshapen potatoes.’

                We hadn’t had a gingerbread cutter, and so we’d tried to make them into the shapes ourselves. Since neither of us were artistic, and the dough was warm, it hadn’t ended well. But the mixture tasted good, and we left some in the bowl. Dad dipped his finger into the bowl and licked it, smiling.

                ‘Don’t tell your mother.’

                ‘Course not,’ I said, licking my own finger.

 

Know that I’ve specifically chosen some of the better bits of my NaNo novel, because most of the other stuff is cringe-worthy. Hope everyone’s having fun with NaNo!

 

Current word count: 40,529

Projected finishing date: tomorrow according to NaNoWriMo, but I’m just aiming for this weekend. That is so exciting!!!!!!!!!

NaNoWriMo Journey: Day One

Today marked my first EVER day of NaNoWriMo. I’ve never done it before. And because I’m crazy, I promised a daily blog post as WELL as 50,000 words.

I woke up excited, SO excited. It’s like a writer’s Christmas! I opened up a fresh new Word document (just THAT bit is exciting) and started typing.

CHAPTER ONE

Before school, I managed to write about 400 words. At school (sucked in, Algebra!), I managed 600 on top of that.

And now for my grand total of the day: 4045.

Want to hear the good news? It was EASIER than I expected. In fifteen-minute bursts, it’s so much easier.

Of course, when I get to the middle it may be a bit harder. I’m expecting that. I’m prepared for it.

And THAT is the wonder of planning.

Here is my synopsis, just if you were wondering:

Jess knows a heck of a lot about mitosis and how to sing into a hairbrush, but not so much about boys. So when James McCarthy dumps her, she makes a vow to be normal. No more hairbrush solos or wearing different-coloured shoes.

But her goal becomes decidedly harder when she meets Mike, the New Guy. Mike, who is on a quest to find a word that rhymes with orange, who saves dandelions. Will she sacrifice her relationship with James in order to fall in mutual weirdness with Mike?

Let me know if you like the idea 🙂 comments are welcome.

So how are YOU going? How much have you written?